A Tribute to Derek Hawkins
When Margaret first asked me to say a few words about Derek today on behalf of his friends, two things immediately came to mind:
Firstly, that in so doing, I would be speaking on behalf of a great many people who have been privileged to be able count on him as a friend over his full and active life.
And secondly, where to start?
I know that everyone here today and many others who are not, will have their own special memories of Derek, either on the sports field, in business, enjoying his generous hospitality, or just spending time in his company in one of the many things in which he was involved.
But perhaps it is through his beloved cricket or through dealings with Berkeley Vale Motors that many of us first came into contact with him?
He was, after all, the face of BVM for over 30 years after coming back into the family business in 1962 until his retirement in the mid nineties – he was not your typical car salesman...!!!
I am sure that the fact that so many customers came back year after year (and even, in many cases, generation after generation) was more to do with being able to deal with someone as genuine and honest as he was, than it was to do with the innovative and exciting designs of either British Leyland or Austin Rover.
Mind you, anyone who could sell a muddy brown Austin Allegro must have had some talent for selling..!!
As Richard said, he loved cutting grass and if he wasn’t cutting the grass around the garage or busy with the family or the business, he could often be found behind the mower round at the cricket ground next door and I feel sure that this pastime that gave him such pleasure was borne way back when, at the age of 11 or 12, Dr E M Grace would pay him 6d to help prepare the ground on a Saturday morning.
Living next door the Thornbury ground, it is hardly surprising that he started playing cricket from a very early age, going from playing with his brothers and the local boys, probably batting against the garage wall for hours on end ,to developing his talents at Thornbury Grammar School under the guidance of Headmaster SJV Rouch and Sports Master Johnny Johnson before moving on to captain both the Gloucestershire and South West of England Schoolboys. His success at this level attracted him to first Glamorgan and then Gloucestershire for whom he signed professional forms at the tender age of sixteen.
As a professional and just back from National Service, he made his maiden First Class century in the opening game of the 1957 season against Sussex at Hove, a performance that was rewarded with the presentation of his County Cap by his then captain, the legendary Jack Crapp.
In a Gloucestershire team with some of England’s finest spin bowlers, he didn’t often get a chance to display his bowling talents but with a career best 8 for 31 against Kent at Cheltenham, he showed that he was more than useful with bat and ball.
I first met him when, on his return to the family business in 1962, he renewed his allegiance to Thornbury Cricket Club in the 1963 season, playing on well into his fifties, balancing the challenge of league cricket with the fun of Over 40’s towards the end of his playing days. I do believe he also made an appearance in a midweek game when he was well past sixty.
He captained the club from 1963 to 1966, was Chairman twice, the first time in difficult circumstances in 1969 following the tragic and sudden death of his mother and father. He was made a Life Member in 1990 and was a very active and supportive President from 2005 until his death.
Derek loved his cricket but the enjoyment of others, particularly his team mates, always came before his own and I recall the pleasure he got from being hit for six sixes in an over by that popular Australian Test player, Neil Hawke whilst playing for Thornbury against a Whitbread Wanderers International X1 as part of the Club’s Centenary celebrations. It was typical of Derek’s modest and generous nature that it didn’t matter to him that he was being hit out of the ground as the spectators loved it - as Neil Hawke later said, it was testament to his generosity that he allowed it to happen and to his and skill that he could put the ball in the right place often enough for him to hit it.
His professional career is well documented in Wisden, but he has figured in a number of other books and he was particularly proud of a mention in the late Bryan Johnson’s book which followed his interview on the square at Thornbury by the great man as part of that popular radio programme, ‘Down Your Way’. A fond memory kept alive by the caricature of him which hung above his chair in the sitting room.
He also told me that he was mentioned in an article in ‘Titbits’ and although he assured me it was in the sports section, I don’t believe that Margaret ever did see the cutting..!!
He was of course much more than just a cricketer and a businessman. He was, in his younger days, an excellent soccer player, playing in what was probably one of the best Thornbury Town teams ever, winning Premier Combination League honours in 1956/57.
He was also a keen golfer, able to play to a handicap of 15 and capable of hitting the ball a long way without apparently having to try. A member of Filton and later, Thornbury, he was also a popular member of ‘The Gorsers’, a group of friends and local business colleagues who, on their trips to Cornwall, managed to combine their sport, business and socialising with a glass of his favourite red wine, in just the way that suited Derek’s approach to all three.
He loved a game of skittles, and for many years played in the top divisions of the local Thornbury league and more recently for the Rotary Club of Thornbury of which he was a Founder member in 1971 and a popular President in 1984/85. With a motto of ‘Service above Self’, Rotary was an organisation that fitted perfectly with Derek’s personal values and he was always first to volunteer for whatever fund raising or community project the club was working on.
He was a popular member of Probus, a regular member of the annual Almondsbury World Tour to France and, as one of the Rudgway Ramblers, he loved his walks in the country in the company of friends, although I think that sometimes it was just his way of finding an excuse to find a pub to settle down to what was his favourite meal of Ham, Egg and Chips and if he was really lucky, Treacle Tart and Custard to follow – if they were on the menu, he never looked further…!!
But it was through cricket that he and became friends and I am reminded of an entry in the Thornbury Cricket Club Centenary handbook in which he was described a classic and elegant player and I know I speak for everyone here today when I say that it has been both a privilege and a pleasure to have been able to share in and enjoy, at least a part of the classic and elegant innings that was the life of a true gentleman and a good friend, Derek Hawkins.